Why Invest in Mobile Workforce Management: An Executive’s Perspective
Vice President, Product Management
No one should be thinking that mobile workforce management (WFM) capabilities are bleeding edge anymore. In fact, the capabilities are so known that it may no longer be leading edge technology. Mobile has proliferated throughout your business and throughout the lives or your associates and customers. Gone are the days of starting a new training session with, “Guys, this is what’s called a mouse.” The learning curve of a well-designed system is not great, probably less difficult than the apps your employees load for their personal lives and conveniences.
So, aside from the wireless infrastructure that must be in place across your stores – which you know is long overdue if it isn’t adequate to support customer interaction and more – what’s delaying your stepping up to the plate for mobile WFM tools? And what’s delaying your desire to equip your people with the tools to manage the business in real time using a prioritized, exception-based focus on business priorities? If you can’t answer that, then let’s cover 10 compelling reasons that should be motivating you to implement mobile WFM capabilities across your business this year:
- Wireless Infrastructure: If you haven’t completed your wireless infrastructure in stores, this is one more benefit driver to support customer interaction in many forms including the advancing opportunities in personalized marketing that your merchandisers should be working on to differentiate your brand and win over customers.
- Efficient Scheduling Interactions: You know that smart labor involves effective planning and scheduling to the needs of the business, while handling employee work rules and availability flexibly. Step one in working with your employees is Employee Self Service interaction with WFM to allow them to remotely see their schedules (no calls or trips to the store to find out their schedules), clarity on associate availability and qualifications, a quick and effective way to manage time off requests, an ability to swap, trade or acquire new shifts after the schedule has been posted, and (believe it or not) the ability for people to surrender shifts when they can’t work to avoid the no call – no show situations that create service disasters and accelerate turnover. Employees love it and their participation in the process saves manages time and maintains an open focus on skill development and availability as key conditions of employment.
- More Face Time with Customers: Mobile WFM keeps your managers on the floor more, where they can have the greatest impact on your associates and customers. Just reducing the employee interaction on requests and availability changes saves time every day. Add in the ability to see the status of their actual performance to plan, and you save all those steps to the computer, many pages sent to your printer, and a good amount of management time trapped on a desktop.
- Streamlined, Targeted Communication: Streamlined communication through task and execution management is a necessity. If you aren’t already rationalizing and bundling the information flowing to you managers through email, truck mail, snail mail and phone calls then you are already behind the game. But, it’s in making that information available via mobile on the go that you save that last step of the process in ensuring that information gets regularly delivered, as needed, including on the sales floor.
- Effective Associate Training: You can take all your coaching and training materials, your Standard Operating Procedures, your Visual Method Sheets for Best Methods, and move it from manuals gathering dust on shelves into active use on your sales floor. Mobile is a great platform for accessibility and these great tools can be delivered in the context of specific task assignments where they can have the greatest value
- Real-Time Reactions to Business: You can cut management reaction time to changes during the week in progress. When your data flows in real time and is accessible when and where it is needed, your people have a significantly better capability of making those smart adjustments to handle unplanned variances to your plan (e.g., weather, competition, etc.) to maintain your service standards and your labor budget.
- Clarity on Assignments and Performance: The best of the WFM solutions support task-based scheduling. This allows for better planning and specific work assignments to fulfill department needs either through individual assignments or crew expectations. But this capacity gets much more powerful when employees can interact with the system and managers can see whether the work is being done and the department plan is on track. Ever see a production line with scoreboard-style feedback to inform workers whether they are running at or behind standards? The equivalent performance management feedback can be available for any retail department, but remote interaction is key to making it work. There is no greater win than taking care of your customers, fulfilling brand expectations, and allowing your employees to finish their shift with a sense of accomplishment for doing their job well.
- The Big Picture: Mobile empowers your District Managers and Field Specialists to see a bigger picture, beyond the store they are currently at, and to provide better, more timely direction to all the stores they support.
- Multi-Channel Communication: Mobile supports new and better ways of communicating within the stores and across store groups. Multi-channel communication tools expedite communication with a text message thread format. It’s a great way for a Store Manager to quickly dispense guidance to their team, a great way for transitioning communications or issues between a Managers on Duty, or a great way for Department Managers to quickly find product they are running out of in sister stores. Have a local farmer delivering fresh produce to one of your stores? Would you rather see the rest of his product go to your stores or your competition? What’s the value of a quick, mobile interaction tool between your Produce Managers?
- Efficiency and Visibility: Think about every aspect of the WFM functionality: planning, associate management, scheduling, week in progress reporting, business intelligence reporting, task management, compliance management routines, workforce training and coaching, and performance management. What isn’t improved by faster, quicker, streamlined communication available where you want it on any device you want it?
For good measure, let me close with this. We aren’t talking bleeding edge or leading edge here. But a new generation of tools including automated assistance more powerful than Siri or Alexa are on the fast track for deployment. These will offer new opportunities for guidance and sustainment of best practice management across your enterprise. That only works if you get started and build a capacity for your organization to have the right tools to serve your customers. If your strategy is to be a leader instead of just a follower, then it is time to at least catch up.